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tv   Book Discussion on The Road Out  CSPAN  August 26, 2014 12:06am-12:34am EDT

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rate and some of our more struggling neighborhoods, 45% graduation rate. you mentioned the context and money to discuss race and class and some of these deeper issues that are challenging. how do we begin to attack those things have been so embedded and gone on for so many years and are so ingrained in the segregated city like chicago and all these issues that come from back? how do we even begin to change back? >> you want to begin to try to answer it and then i will? do you have an idea? >> i think we need a lot of support from not just schools and i work with the ymca. we need non-profits and community organizations and a lot of people to change the paradigm. it's a very difficult task. there is a lot of pain and emotion and anger and
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frustration and people that are struggling and communities that are struggling violence. i don't have a good answer. it takes some dialogue. >> do you want to weigh in? >> i have thought a little bit about that before in one beginning of an idea i came up with is things need to be tackled in preschool because in preschool, preschool is a time where kids have the fewest ideas coming into conceptions about the world. it's the ideal time to try and encourage empathy through the structure of preschool and my hope would be as soon as we go through preschool and become more empathetic individuals in that time of very rapid development they are going to go into elementary school and eventually high school with a much more empathetic background
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and that will leave them much more in tuned to the issues that you brought up which is i think the first step. there are simply people recognizing their presence in being willing to talk about them. >> anybody else want to weigh in before i answer back? it seems like there were some folks who wanted to offer their own wisdom. >> this is not to debate your point but i have recently been exposed to a text called the other r which points out 3-year-olds are capable of performing racist acts basical basically. not that i have a solution but i think you're you are exactly right that we have to start the conversation and i think minority population, sorry majority populations have to be the leaders. it's time to get going on this, you know?
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>> with a guard to preschool d.c. is an interesting case study. there's one policy solution that can begin that can help. d.c. has a population of 800,000 before the riots in 1968 and then went down to 500,000. its data 500,000 for 40 years. i'd move to d.c. in 2001 and that happened to be right around when things started to change so the population in d.c. is now up over 600,000 so rising tax base which means six years ago we passed the universal preschool law and because we are only 600,000 things are possible in d.c. that become harder in chicago. after just six years 75% of eligible 3-year-olds and 90% of eligible for-year-olds are enrolled in preschool. that's a start.
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i also know folks who say he preschool is too late that actually your question speaks to something larger and systemic but if we are just talking about kids there are organizations that are doing work around zero to three in working with families and parents just helping folks think about how to better support the needs of their kids. one of my heroes is a professor at el named james komar. palmer was on the path to becoming a medical doctor and african-american who grew up in a poor lower middle class community. neither of his parents were college graduates but he and his siblings all have 12 degrees. as he was about to become a doctor he looked back at some of the kids he grew up with and they not only didn't have multiple degrees but they were in jail. he said what happen they were just as smart as we were so why
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did we succeed and they failed? what komar concluded is that an award they were underdeveloped. their parents were doing the best that they could but the other pressures these adults were facing and the fact that limited the ability to meet the needs of their kids they didn't have the developmental foundation that would allow them to be successful whereas komar even though he was coming from a poor family did and therefore he succeeded and thrived. so to the extent that is possible for cities to craft policies that are much more intentional in helping adults meet developmental needs of children that's really important. but also anybody see the wire on hbo? may be the best show ever, truly. lots of people is said that the reason i love that show is although there are lots of compelling characters the primary characters are the
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systems that are interacting in the city of baltimore and ultimately holding everybody prisoner. the drug trade, the public schools, the media, the municipal government and the police. what you are primarily seeing is the ways in which you can ever hope to address education without also paying attention to these other things. to the extent that we the people start to actually demand and hold our elected officials more accountable to have a systemic policy approach we are going to be struggling for a while. i realize it's like the biggest most quixotic thing to say as a final point but in that sense they really are no shortcuts. we can't fix public education when one out of four children and americans living in poverty. we can do the best we can but we
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can't fix public education when we have the biggest discrepancy in wealth since the golden age. we can't fix public education when the ways in which we tried to choose elected officials is closer to resembling a plutocracy than a democracy. we can't change our government if money is equivalent to speech. none of these things can happen immediately but to the extent that all of us can begin and our own private and public lives to be more conscious and visible and bearing witness to what we see and what it's reaping then at least we have a better chance of starting to zero in on the best questions that might actually get us closer to the vision we first laid out over 200 years ago. thank you all so much for coming. the book is available on i hope maybe you are registered
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in buying it but if not please follow-up with me. thank you very much for coming. [applause] [inaudible conversations] nexa conversation on poverty and the u.s. education system. author and educator deborah hicks talks about her book "the road out" a teacher's odyssey in poor america.
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from duke university in durham north carolina, this is 30 minutes. >> host: booktv is on the campus of duke university in durham north carolina where we are talking with professors and scholars about some of their books. now joining us here is deborah hicks. her book "the road out" a teacher's odyssey in poor america. deborah hicks, what do you do here at duke first of all? >> guest: i have a couple of things that i do. i am part of a research unit called social science research institute and that is a unit that is composed of people doing research and social scientist scientists -- science and and also a social entrepreneur so i direct a nonprofit in the carolina mountains codepage partnership for appalachian girls education in there i worked with appalachian girls and middle school and help them
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get educational opportunities and access. so i have a couple of different hats that i wear at duke university, a researcher in the social entrepreneur. >> host: social entrepreneur. is that a new term? >> guest: i think it was coined by people like nicholas kristof but it's a widely used term now. for people like me who basically direct non-profits and different things in the nonprofit sector. >> host: how did you get involved with appalachian girls in middle school in western north carolina? >> guest: that is a long story that i write about in "the road out." i grew up as an appalachian girl in a working-class girl in a tiny mill town in the mountains of north carolina. it was the first in my family to go to college which was a very big step for me. i ended up through a scholarship from a group called aauw going to college and doing super well in college.
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i ended up finally after a lot of stumbles on a lot of false going on and getting a graduate degree from harvard and education. from that long journey that i experienced myself came back to my native north carolina and found that this nonprofit called page and begin working with appalachian girls out here. >> host: when you say you work with appalachian girls, what do you do? >> guest: i teach. the people who work with me on this nonprofit have created this kind of out of school opportunity for girls in the most rye parts of the appalachian mountains. they come to an intensive summer program. they have meetings with volunteers. we offer these girls who otherwise don't have opportunities for summer learning enrichment. we offer an intensive wonderful
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educational program in the summer. they come to our program from all over the mountains of north carolina and madison county and they do digital literacy learning. they write, they read literature and baquette a really intensive summer learning experience through page the nonprofit that i direct. >> host: in "the road out" who are adriana blair mariah elizabeth shannon jessica andalucia? >> guest: so these are seven very amazing very special girls that i got to know when i was teaching in cincinnati. i mentioned i had gotten my college degree my graduate degree and ended up getting a teaching degree in cincinnati ohio. there are discovered this pretty amazing neighborhood. same in neighborhood of appalachian people in the inner city.
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it's sort of goes back to part of america's history when you have people in the appalachian region moving up north to look for jobs in cities like cincinnati. so i was teaching and found out there was this appalachian community grade i went there and said to the people at the public elementary school and the community, would you all that may be a teacher in elementary school and teach kids. i began teaching and got to know the seven girls, blair mariah and so forth and at that time when i first met them they were only in second grade. i followed these girls into third grade and fourth grade into the fourth grade year i said to these young girls do you all want to have the class of your own? they said the yeah we will give this a try. i began meeting with these girls, seven of them in total.
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we met every weekend during the summer for four years of their lives. this became a kind of an amazing experience for them and for me. having a class of our own we studied and read literature and talked about stories and mostly i listen to the girls dreams about their lives. it was a place where they could dream and tell stories and read books. >> host: deborah hicks how are the seven girls similar in their outlook of life? >> guest: they are poor so they are among the very poorest of american children. i found out -- much i love cincinnati in 2009. i came back to north carolina to found this nonprofit but as i was later to burn in cincinnati in 2010 became the third worst city in the united states for
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child poverty and urban areas. only third to detroit and i think cleveland so this was one of the poorest cities for child poverty. part of that child poverty was appalachian poverty in the inner city. all these girls are poor. many of them had moms who had some drug issues and in poor white america the drug problem tends to be centered around the abuse of prescription painkillers like oxycontin would be an example of that. i found out that many of my young students, some of them eight, nine or 10 years old had moms who were doing drugs and that was the common factor among girls. >> host: how did that affect their outlook on life, their dreams as you say? >> guest: i think for many of these girls what i was to
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discover as a teacher is many of these girls were essentially orphans. they became orphans to oxycontin and american poverty. i was their teacher. we had our own class but our class became like a family to them. they became kind of like sisters. yes i was a teacher. i sometimes had to be teacher like an stern but it became like family and it was very intimate. at one point, two of the girls and one of them was blair and the other one was adriana, they put their arms around one another and said we are sisters. i said to them, and as we often began our class to get things going and stuff. i said to use the girls what
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makes you while sisters? what's going on? they said we just figured out that both of our moms are out on the street doing drugs so for them it was like we had become this family and the class was the sisterhood of girls. >> host: did their childhood what you are seeing in their class in cincinnati affect what you grew up within western north carolina? >> guest: a little bit to some extent. i was a working-class girl. i didn't have opportunities or access. no one in my family had been to college and i was very naïve about about how college work and how school works but the difference was i was working-class. my dad had a job. >> host: did he live with the family? >> guest: he did. i think it was pretty common in those days ended rural appalachia as opposed to rural
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appalachian communities you do it do tend to have families where you have the dad and mom and my dad was living in the household and had a job. they have biological dads but they were not part of their everyday lives and their moms were starting to lose it because of the drug issue so the families were beginning to be ripped apart. what i saw in the appalachian community in cincinnati and other urban families that the grandmas kind of step in and start taking over and taking control of the family. in fact one of my students i read about "the road out" blaher her grandma was her central caretaker -- caretaker and i was pretty common. >> host: how did you get to college? >> guest: the one keyword is education and i have to be very
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grateful. as i mention mentioned i was a naïve working-class girl. i was a little bit of an anomaly because i loved books and i loved reading so i was a bookish little girl. i think because of that i did well in school and got a's. i knew nothing about college. i did know how to get in and didn't know how to apply or know about the process. i got a letter in the mail saying i got a scholarship. this wonderful group of women the american association of university women had given me a scholarship. >> host: how did you get connected with them? >> guest: ions that can't remember. they probably heard about me through high school and probably had someone say this girl, this kid can make it. i got a letter saying you have been given a scholarship to college so i ended up being able
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to go onto college. once i got in and did so well it was really easy for me to ask ellen keep going and went on to get a degree. >> host: deborah hicks what was the hardest part of leaving your town, in your naïve miss as you say and coming into college? >> guest: i think the toughest thing is once you leave, once you take the road out you go elsewhere, you do have to give up part of your childhood identity and part of who you a are. there is a process of change that has to happen and to some extent it puts you at a certain, little bit of a distance from your childhood and your family and stuff. it's that part that's difficult and involves change. for me that was great because i
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went on to college but then i have come back and helped my own people. people who are my people, working-class people. i feel like yeah i have had to give up some of who i was and now i can come back and help the people who are like me. >> host: were used treated with being the first to go to college? is that the wrong word? >> guest: i think it's a perceptive word. i think people like me who are kind of bookish people think she is a little bit different. she is not exactly like everybody else around here and she is a little odd maybe. at that point of my life getting married or having babies or whatever you are different. i was seen as different but luckily that didn't stop me or
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hamper me. >> host: your work in cincinnati which you write about in "the road out" a teacher's odyssey in poor america was it sanctioned by cincinnati public schools, the special class? >> guest: they were phenomenal and i would have to say they were total colleagues, friends. they open their doors to me and to some extent i think they were a little bit baffled about what i was doing because i was having this class for girls and reading all this literature. i think they were just like well, this is working out in the girls were thriving. i was trying to also at the same time bring back what i learned from the class to the other classrooms and stuff in urban cincinnati. i try to get back to the whole system that they were welcoming and wonderful to me in every way. >> host: besides just having a class of seven what else did you bring differently into that classroom? >> guest: i would say my own experience growing up i knew where the girls were coming from
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so i was a different teacher in that sense. we also did something that's unusual these days because now we have a lot of pressure from accountability and testin testio teach to the test and get everyone to pass these big tes tests. and urban poor settings like the urban cincinnati that's tough for kids do and it's hard for them to pass those big tests. instead of doing that i read literature and that is becoming more and more of an anomaly these days to read literature and talk about literature and talk about the stories of your own life. that was different and the thing that was different from me as some kind of an old-fashioned literature person. i like novels about characters and character driven novels and stuff like that. these girls come, i tried to bring young adult fiction to these girls things were --
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things that were like them. >> host: such as? >> guest: like a wonderful novel called the blue-eyed daisy by authors i would speak to their concerns. my students wanted nothing of that. they turn their noses up at that and said we don't want your kind meaning we don't want your book. not me as a person but the books i was bringing in. it turned out their favorite book was horror fiction. >> host: like vampire? >> guest: some about that 11 of my students blair is it turned out she was by the age of nine and also tend her favorite author was stephan king. they watch stephen king on television and they read stephen king and there i was trying to be this idealistic social justice teacher trying to change the world and change them and
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all they wanted was stephen king. i finally gave in and said we are just going to read horror fiction and stuff. that was transformative for me and for my students. they began becoming readers and really enjoying reading and loving it and stuff. eventually stephen king read my memoir. >> host: do you regret allowing the girls to read horror fiction? >> guest: not at all. >> host: or sponsoring a? >> guest: we actually read the then king in my class. i did a bunch of research after he learned about this literary passion of mayors and i found all these really wonderful stories and stuff for young kids for kids. i have managed to create this curriculum around those stories. we kind of compromise but they
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still insisted their favorite author was only stephen king and that was interesting. >> host: how long were you with these girls in the special class as? >> guest: we have a cause for four years beginning monday were in third grade in the end of sixth grade. i made a decision at that point to come back to north carolina which was where i grew up and began to found my own nonprofit building on what i had learned from these girls. i had to leave and that was very tough. i left these girls when they were just entering adolescence. i kept up with them and i visited cincinnati. we kept in touch via e-mail and facebook and everything else. i went back and forth but i left when they were in sixth grade. >> host: do you regret that? or do you feel responsible? >> guest: i do sometimes feel if i had been able to stay, if i had been able to continue the class and number of them
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struggled when they entered adolescence. one of them became a young teenage mom at the age of 16. she finished high school and is going on to study hairdressing. she has done really well but there is a time period where there were a number of students struggling and i did feel guilty about that but i knew i had to come back to my native state and do my work here is a social entrepreneur. it was really a choice that i had. i felt i had a calling to do this. >> host: how old are those seven girls now, 17, 18, 19? >> guest: they are in their early 20s. >> host: very quickly adriana, a snapshot. what is she doing now? >> guest: adriana finished high school at a competitive private high school which he got into with some help from me but she finished high school and went on to


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